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Helping Students Be Thinkers Seen as a College-Readiness Strategy


To be successful in life beyond high school, students need to be able to do far more than recite facts. They need to be able to reason, communicate, and be resilient.

With information just a click away from students on their computers and mobile devices, experts at the Learning and the Brain conference here last weekend emphasized the need to help students learn to be thinkers—and smarter with their study strategies.

"The role of the teacher is to give students what technology can't give them—motivation, respect, empathy, and passion. Those are things that computers can't do," said Marc Prensky, author of numerous books on technology and education and a speaker at the event. "It's not teaching a subject. It's the human dimension."

(See Liana Heitin's related blog post over at Teaching Now, Rethinking Teacher Roles in a Networked World.)

Students today need to be able to effectively think, build relationships, and take action. If they haven't learned these skills in primary and secondary school, when they get to college, it's too late, said Prensky.

"Kids leave school with grades, but not with a resume of things they have accomplished," Prensky added. He called for a new approach to education that may call for some experimentation.

"We all need to adapt" to the new set of circumstances with technology and the demands of the workplace, he said. Rather than being fearful of change, Prensky encouraged educators to try innovative approaches to teaching.

Meanwhile, Terry Doyle, an educational consultant and a professor of reading at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., said in his remarks here that college professors are focused on delivering content, but graduates really need to be able to talk and listen on the job.

"Just three percent of class time in higher education is spent on discussion, yet communication is so important," he said. "Being a teammate, taking criticism—we don't do any of those things because we're oblivious to what's really going on."

Colleges would be smart to engage learners in experimental environments and offer a variety of ways to apply their knowledge through activities such as service learning. "The brain loves things that are different," he said. "Diverse activities promote learning."

New research on the brain underscores the importance of educators understanding what works and relaying that to students. "You don't need to work harder, but you need to be more informed and know how the brain processes information," Doyle told the group of 1,300 educators gathered at the conference.

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